Believe it or not, even handbags can flatter your figure. But with all the options today, which one is right for you?
The first step is determining your body type, and then finding a purse to accentuate your best features, while minimizing others. The key to finding a handbag that complements you, regardless of your shape, is to make sure the bag is proportionate with your size. That means petite women should avoid oversized bags, and very tall women should resist the urge to buy very small bags.
“The handbag is extension of the body, and much like skinny jeans are not for everyone so are some silhouettes of handbags,” explains Emily Blumenthal of Handbag Designer 101.
Body Type: The Hourglass
This is the coveted body type, according to celebrity stylist Anson Gilbert. Your shoulders and hips are proportionate while the waist is significantly smaller and defined.
“The only bag to be cautious of is the messenger,” Gilbert says. “If the body of your messenger bag is too big or bulky, it is possible for you to throw off the balance of your body shape, making you appear more bottom-heavy than in proportion.”
For shorter women with hourglass figures, Marc Fisher’s Facetime Hobo provides functionality and style without being cumbersome; taller women will benefit from the large-but-not-too-large look of Calvin Klein’s Sonoma Leather Hobo.
Body Type: The Rectangle
Rectangular body types have little to no differences in width between the hips, waist and shoulders. The key here is to break up the strong vertical line of your body’s natural silhouette, says Gilbert. Messengers, totes, hobos or structural bags work best here.
“Preferably, you’ll hold these styles in the fold of your arm versus via the shoulder or the fist of your hand,” Gilbert explains. “If you’re going to wear a clutch, hold it at your waist – the equivalent of holding a bag with a strap in the fold of the arm.”
Tignanello’s Polished Pockets Hobo allows for plenty of storage space while adding the illusion of definition to the rectangle silhouette.
Body Type: The Pear
The most common female body shape in the U.S. is the pear shape. Because the hips are wider than the upper body, Gilbert recommends finding a bag that draws attention to your top half while downplaying the larger hips.
“Opt for smaller styles while keeping the overall size in scale with your body’s frame,” he says. “Your best buys are the satchel, shoulder bag where the body of the bag isn’t big or wide, small clutch, and the structured/ladylike bag.”
When pear-shaped women are shopping for a bag, pay special attention to the straps. Straps with embellishments or those with shiny or metallic accents add visual interest in the shoulder area. Purses with brightly colored straps, such as the Coach Straw Pocket Tote, also draw attention up and away from the hips.
Body Type: The Inverted Triangle
As the name implies, women with an inverted triangle shape have shoulders that are wider than their hips, and are the exact opposite of the pear shape. Choose bags with neutral straps so as not to draw attention to the strong shoulder line. Instead, find a bag that draws attention to your lower half, such as the Vintage America Design Studio Large Shopper.
“Make sure the strap comfortably sits in the dead center of your shoulder and its width is in scale with your body’s frame,” adds Gilbert. “Too tiny of a strap will make your shoulders and bust appear dramatically larger than they are – the complete opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.”
Choosing a High-Quality Handbag
Finding a purse you love is the first hurdle, but finding a purse that will last is another. Luckily, there are a few telltale signs of well-made and not-so-well made bags.
“If the bag needs help and slumps down, then chances are not enough thought was put into the structure of creating it,” says Blumenthal. “In addition, try the bag on and do your mirror face –you will get a good understanding of how well it is made if you do the 'how do I look?' test.”Ensure the lining isn’t thin enough for a pen to poke a hole through it, and really scrutinize the fine details, such as the stitching and finishes. If the hardware feels loose, the bag will likely fall apart in a matter of weeks.